Tuesday’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 Semifinal Boys Basketball game inside Errion Gym had everything a basketball fan could ask for.
Raucous crowds, both teams battling every possession, and two rivals who would love to knock the other out of the playoffs.
For the St. Anthony Saints, one big thing was lacking:
The Saints had several air balls in the first half and didn’t make their first 3-pointer until midway through the fourth quarter.
However, they were still alive but St. Bernard made several free throws down the stretch to beat St. Anthony, 66-64. It is the third time St. Bernard beat its Del Rey League rival this year and all three games were decided by a total of eight points.
“It was our execution,” Saints coach Alan Mitchell said. “It’s as simple as that. For 32 minutes, we didn’t do it.”
The first quarter saw the Saints (18-8) feed their big man, senior Elijah Price. Price was able to get to the basket at will and had 12 points in the quarter as St. Anthony led 20-14 after one.
While it was the Saints getting loose balls and defending the lane in the first, the Vikings (20-6) had a 9-0 run in the second led by senior Jason Hart Jr. (Long Beach State signee) and junior Darius Carr. The Vikings led 34-28 at half.
The Saints continued to struggle with their outside shots in the third and Mitchell said the team “trust the work” they put in they just couldn’t get the shots to fall. Hart Jr. added six points in the third and led the Vikings with 20.
St. Bernard led by as many as 11 in the fourth before St. Anthony senior guard Jaayden Bush made the team’s first 3-pointer of the game with 4 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.
Bush single-handedly kept the team in the game with 12 of the team’s first 14 points in the quarter and 15 in the fourth and finished the night with 23. Price added 20 for the Saints.
“A winner,” Mitchell said.
St. Anthony had the deficit down to three points with 30 seconds left but the Vikings were able to make their free throws to put the game away.
The season isn’t over for the Saints as they will find out their fate for the state playoffs on Sunday.
“We had three goals this year,” Mitchell said. “One was to win a league title. We didn’t do that. Second was a CIF title. We didn’t do that one. The last one left is a state title. Maybe it’s destiny.”